Friday, April 16, 2010

Breaking out of consumerville

Ever since my husband Paul showed me The Story of Bottled Water, I've been struck by the fact that our current consumer system is broken.
Current consumer system

Extraction - Production - Distribution - Consumption - Disposal.

This is a linear model that starts with raw materials being dug out of the earth and ends with rubbish being dumped back into the earth where it can only do harm. The problem is it's unsustainable;

We're eventually going to run out of raw materials to extract, as well as land to dump our rubbish in.

What we need is a cyclical model instead, which is why I like the concepts of permaculture or permanent culture, where we keep feeding back into our earth, rather than depleting it.

So I'm breaking out!

I'm in the slow process of changing the way I consume to be more sustainable. I openly admit that I have far to go on my journey, but here are my tips for living a more planet-friendly life:
  • Give items a longer life span. Shop at thrift stores to purchase toys, clothes, books and household items that others no longer need. Repair what you can and donate your excess to charities.
  • Buy quality. Save up to buy items that cost a bit more but will last a lot longer, eg. high thread count bed linen, well-made leather shoes, quality containers for kitchen storage, solid cookware, real wood and leather furniture.
  • Buy reusable instead of disposable. At home you could choose to use cloth diapers and cloth wipes for baby, and menstrual cups and cloth pads for mum. 
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products. Or even better - make your own. These won't harm the environment or your family.
  • Reduce reliance on petrol. We use a non-motorised lawn mower to clip our (admittedly small) back lawn and I'm currently in the last week of a three-week trial to see if I can manage without my car. If I can (and it's looking good), Paul and I will sell my car and only use his. I'm getting around by walking most places with L in her stroller, or planning bigger trips for when Paul's not at work and I can use his car.
  • Garden. Grow what you can in your backyard to reduce packaging and the distance food has to travel to get to you. Gardens also provide a home for birds and beneficial insects and are a good place to compost your kitchen waste instead of sending it to the dump.
  • Cook from scratch. Make meals out of fresh ingredients in their original state as much as possible, to reduce the stages of production, processing, packaging and transportation that food has to go through to get to you.
These are just a few of the things I'm doing; I'd love to hear others' tips as well. Use the comments box below to link up to your own website or to write what you're doing to close the loop.

Update: I just walked down to the Salvation Army Family Store on Grey Street in Hamilton and picked up all these books and this awesomely interactive toy for just $10.30.


  1. It's not something you can do regularly, but if you have any old gold jewellery that you don't wear and are looking into new jewellery, you can go to some jewellers and have them melt your old piece to make a new one! Of course you pay for the process and craft but you have killed two birds with one stone.

  2. I love your ideas Emma! My hubby uses a push mower too. We have used reusable nappies for the first 2 years of both children's lives....don't hate me - we've gone to disposable now for our boy as we were having continual problems with some weird sores on his wee bottom!
    We also like to buy in bulk for lots of our cleaning products and washing powder etc - all environmentally friendly of course! :o)

  3. Hey Elizabeth, I was just wondering about buying cleaners in bulk the other day but couldn't think where I would get environmentally friendly ones from. Where do you get yours?

  4. Even better than buying cleaners in bulk, make your own. DIY laundry detergent is much cheaper at pennies a load, takes only about 10 minutes to make and is eco-friendly. Recipe at

    You can clean most anything around the house with vinegar, baking soda and/or washing soda, all of which are cheap, effective and easy to buy in bulk.

  5. Hey thanks for that Melanie. I'm going to give it a go. I've made laundry powder before and found it good, but I didn't use it long term so don't know if soap would cake up on my clothes or not.

  6. I'm in the second or third year of using homemade laundry detergent and so far so good for me. YMMV, of course, but I love it. In that time, I've spent less than $15 in ingredients. Since we both work from home I don't do much laundry, but still!

  7. Wow! That is so cheap. I spend about $8 a pop on the eco-store laundry powder. I'm definitely going to try your recipe now!

  8. You can grow many kinds of conifer from seed, but many of them require human intervention in a British climate. So I'm not aware of Leylandii and its friends self-seeding.


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